I finished what I regarded as the best book of my life in 2013, right before I met my husband (in person). I wrote this book with all the passion of a woman in love, a woman who in a way, invented the man she loved and — indeed. Bruce is Broos.
I’ve always believed that the majority of humans share common feelings and experiences. I believe that the things we think separate us, are in reality, common experiences. When I rail against elitists, I am railing at that part of myself, the part that wanted to be “elite.” I may never have valued things or masses of money much but for years, I aspired to “be a famous writer.” Like many things we believe to be so important, such feelings are ephemeral and when they leave us, they have no more impact than an old coat, old couch, or old bicycle.
At the same time, my instinct has always told me there was something more to writing, that it was a basic human activity and that it helped to make things real. It helped us to touch each other across gaps of years and thousands of miles. Across generations and between sworn combatants.
So, 20% of U.S. residents regularly buy and read books. 80% do not.
The traditional answer is that those who do not read are stupid.
This isn’t true. The truth is, those who do not regularly buy and read books are not presented with books that interest them in ways/places to which they’d respond. And while we have nearly 100% literacy, the majority of books, booklike products, and even Medium itself are written for the 1%, not the 99%. And of the larger group, there is a certain number that affiliates with the 1%, follows their interests keenly, and considers their tastes to be their own. It’s aspirational, I suppose. Like for me, there has been this Peter Thiel thing on the front page of Medium. I am little inclined to find out specifics on Thiel’s ideas about “business monopoly” since I know he ain’t the first dude to have such ideas and be dick enough to shove them down others’ throats.
I lost my house and was forced to file for bankruptcy because I tried to found a publishing company to publish books for the 80% of people who don’t regularly buy and read them: a pretty massive untapped market. But I was a woman, did not have a lot of money, and that was that: books aren’t shapewear, cosmetics, craft booze, or a travel blog to exotic locales.
Every time I’ve said the simple truth that the large number of people who don’t regularly buy and read books don’t do it because the books that are out there are not interesting to them, I’ve been viciously attacked by people who say they love books. There’s quite the connection to Thiel’s monopoly concept but …
How did I come to realize the truth about books and reading? Through years of classroom teaching. Seeing student after student who’d never enjoyed reading suddenly become engaged and enthralled when I’d assign books like An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks. Such is the power of the true word; the honest tale that lifts the spirit or thrills the heart.
Despite what one individual thinks — I’m cruel — well in this case, all can be cruel. Even the obviously kind and saintly Oliver Sacks may have lashed out at someone when he was in pain or felt ill. I’m merely someone who for many years, believed in honesty and lack of pretense as the highest values. Now I see there is more to it — and that discretion has its own high virtue, and I have known many more discreet and wise people than myself —
Ah! The romantic dash — so George Gordon Lord Byron, so Shelley, so Keats! So Gerard Manley Hopkins — bright wings!
And the lovely sun bursts in my window and casts its rays across my cheeks as I sit and write and know this is a moment I wished for my entire life. I live — in paradise. I write — in paradise.
At the end of great suffering, sometimes there comes happiness and freedom.
I had a certain literary education. Both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees are in literature. And I now understand I have been a reluctant fiction reader myself, though I’ve undertaken all the necessary exercises to pursue my chosen work. You can hardly be a decent writer if you haven’t read others’ writing —
If my memory serves me right, a dragon eventually ate Beowulf, but I think that Gilgamesh got to go to heaven and meet up with Enkidu. Maybe. I’m not going to look it up. It seems to me from my long-ago class in the Heroic Poem this is what happened.
Our lives are a fabric of woven thread and if we live well, the threads are strong and tied to the fabric of all others.
But heretofore, if I follow this thread, I understand that only a tiny portion of the fabric has been revealed. I think that, much like a folded quilt, a part of the quilt is being unfolded right now, revealing new colors, new texture, new shapes — that have always been there — but have remained unseen.
There are stories in my mind for which I truly do not have words, but — someone else does.
Words about new life, new visions, new places, new things. People make things, yes. But they also sense things and feel things. They dream things.
In my dreams of late, I am always running, always escaping, always declining to obey. Through fire, through ashes, to fields with the bare green shoots just beginning to grow.
We are like little creatures living in the back of a dark, humid, dripping cave, barely able to see, and one by one, creeping to the edge and peering out at a world entirely new to us full of wonder, danger, and —
things for which there are as yet, no words
Eighty percent of people don’t regularly buy and read books not because they are stupid but because the books for them, have not been written yet.